Friday, March 1, 2019

Happy 100th birthday, Dad
My Dad with sisters Nancy and Marjorie

Happy 100th Birthday to my Dad. I wish he was here to celebrate it. He did so much good in the world. ‪He would say, “Try to leave the world a better place than you found it”, and he did. ‬This ambition perhaps came from a long line of principled ancestors.

I've been thinking about his work in the third world, and the many friends and relations he fostered. He once said that a key achievement was for people to be able to phone from South Africa to Egypt without faults, and he achieved these things by setting up schools for engineers, teaching locals to make and repair telephone systems themselves. He and Mum managed to be productive and extremely popular wherever they went.

His career began in the New Zealand Post Office, where he excelled, and it was said that he was near to being appointed Director General when he followed his passion to help those in developing nations through the UN system. We moved to Geneva, Switzerland, when I was 7.

As a communications engineer he had been named an "essential public servant" during the war and wasn't allowed to enlist. I heard that he a Mum were sent white feathers, but he never mentioned them. He persistently tried to join the services and finally was accepted into the fleet air arm as a navigator.

Dad in the fleet air arm
He couldn’t tolerate insults. He once ejected a powerful colleague from his office for naming him a liar, and he earned and expected our respect. Others also recognised his worth. We moved to New Jersey, USA, so that he could work out of the UN Development Programme office in New York, and after a farewell party at St John’s in Montclair, NJ for my Mum and Dad one of the guests turned to my Mum and said, “He has class”. He was honest, smart, kind and hard-working.

My Mum and her family were great musicians, and Dad would add his gravelly voice to whatever music was being made. He was devoted to Mum, and her happiness was most often his top priority.

For a while after he retired he played the stock market, as a game, particularly investing in Brierley shares. He and my uncle Bob loved to discuss the relative merits of alternative investments. Brierley was one of those businessmen who never made much of real value, but preyed on firms in trouble then fleeced them of assets. After the crash in '87 Brierley lost most of his value and Dad also lost a pack. Shortly afterwards he said to me, "I don't understand. Where did all the money go?". "It was never there Dad", I replied, and he accepted that without rancour.

He and Mum took enormous delight in their grandchildren, and Carolyn and I spent many happy weekend days with our young family at their place in Tauranga.

His love of tidiness was legendary. At his funeral in 1999 I told the story of when I helped him eliminate a very large flax bush, and he insisted on placing the fronds in 5 separate piles by size, “to keep things tidy for the dustman”. One of his friends interjected, “He would!”.

The world was a lesser place after he died. I thoroughly enjoyed chewing the fat with him; he possessed an endless trove of interesting, but well-balanced insights about public affairs. He would have disliked Trump, but would have waited to see what Trump did before deciding that the selfish, bigoted liar was unworthy of his time. He also initially supported the reforms of the fourth Labour government, but later regretted the massive social harm they caused and the selfishness they unleashed.

His name was Lloyd William Mason, and I loved him.